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BEIJING, China, November 28, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Foreigners will be unable to speak freely about God in China, should a new communist bill be put into law.

According to, visitors to China would be subject to several significant restrictions regarding their religious activities. A draft of the new law entitled “Foreign Religious Activities in the People’s Republic of China” was recently released by the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA). It forbids missionary work and even religious services conducted by foreigners for Chinese nationals.

“To enhance the sense of ‘independence’ and ‘autonomy’ of Chinese religions, religious activities by foreigners can only involve foreigners, even if they can, sometimes and temporarily, use local ‘temples or churches’, and ask Chinese personnel to perform religious services or sacraments (Articles 17 and 20),” AsiaNews reported.

“Foreigners are also not allowed to set up religious groups, engage in activities, or open schools, proselytise among Chinese citizens, recruit followers, or accept donations from Chinese citizens (Article 21).”

The online news magazine also reported that SARA is against any kind of foreign leadership in religions present in China, which most prominently would include the Argentina-born Roman pontiff.

“Under Article 21 (1) of the draft, a foreigner (like the Pope) may not ‘interfere in and dominate the affairs of Chinese religious groups,’” AsiaNews stated.

The proposed legislation contains 40 articles detailing the extent to which foreigners and Chinese may meet, discuss religion, and share religious materials. AsiaNews suggests that the draft treats religious foreigners in China as if they were spies.

“Chapter 4 (Articles 30-36) is impressive because it includes ‘punishments’ under the law and cites laws and regulations governing religious activities and public security and anti-espionage legislation,” the news magazine wrote.

“The proposal seems informed by the view that religious activities by foreigners are part of an ‘espionage’ operation.”

Whereas SARA makes a show of respecting the religious beliefs of foreigners, it regulates their own religious services, even when they remain separate from Chinese nationals.

“Although Article 4 states: ‘China respects the freedom of religious belief of foreigners in the territory and protects the religious activities of foreigners in the territory according to the law’, every individual and group, and every activity must be subject to very strict conditions and must be verified by the Religious Affairs Office at the city, county, province, and national levels,” AsiaNews reported.

Foreign religious communities or chaplaincies for foreigners will be forced to register and wait 20 days for authorization from SARA to conduct religious activities. Oddly, they will have to register in Chinese.

Meanwhile, there will also be a cap on the amount of religious materials foreigners may bring with them into China, for example, only 10 copies of a book, video or brochure. These, too, must receive Chinese authorization. AsiaNews wrote that Article 25 stipulates that to bring the material into the country, “applicants must supply documentation explaining its content, which must not ‘endanger China’s national security’ and must not be contrary to the ‘principle of Chinese religious independence and self-management.’”

The proposed new law envisions “cultural and religious exchanges” between China and the outside world, the foreigners being invited to “conferences, courses or sermons.” However, these would have to guard their tongues and refrain from activities the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) deems “hostile to China,” and also wait for permission from SARA to attend.

“Given such restrictions and red tape, foreign religious groups will struggle to set foot in China,” AsiaNews concluded.

“Interacting with underground Christians will become impossible and illegal. Interacting with members of official Christian Churches without SARA’s monitoring will become harder.”

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Over the past year, informed Catholics and Christians in the West have watched helplessly as the Communist government in China has cracked down harder and harder on our Chinese brothers and sisters in Christ.

Incidents of persecutions, occurring over the last year, include the fact that:

  • Christian churches have been destroyed by authorities. 
  • Two million Christians and Buddhist are being kept in detention.
  • Christian teachings have been reinterpreted according to socialist doctrine.
  • Churches in Hunan province were forced to remove displays of the Ten Commandments and replace them with quotes of President Xi Jinping.
  • Churches in Jiangxi province were ordered to remove biblical paintings and crosses and replace them with portraits of the president.
  • In some areas, all public displays of Christmas decorations have been banned.
  • In December, Christians belonging to “house churches” not recognized by the government were ordered to refrain from publicly celebrating Christmas.

In the latest assault on the practice of one's faith in China, and, indeed, on freedom of conscience, new draconian rules, set to go into place in February, absurdly require that religious groups “spread Communist Party principles.”

Of course, the Church has been persecuted in China for decades. But, these latest attempts to squelch the independence of the Church are coming in spite of the recent agreement the Vatican signed with China’s communist government.

Or, could it be, as some suggest, that the latest persecution against Chinese Christians is coming at least, in part, because of the recent agreement the Vatican signed with the communist government?

Perhaps, appeasement is seen by the Chinese government as a weakness to be exploited.

Some senior Catholic prelates have been increasingly vocal in speaking out both against the communist government's treatment of religion, as well as aspects of the recent Agreement.

Now, a letter from Cardinal Zen to the rest of the Cardinals in the world (please read, below), more clearly delineates his grievances with the new Sino-Vatican Agreement. It also brings new light to the questions ('Dubia') he posed to Pope Francis about the Agreement in July (but, which have, to-date, gone unanswered).

One of the most striking insights the Cardinal makes about the new Sino-Vatican Agreement can be found in the second paragraph of his letter (reproduced in its entirety, below): "From my analysis of the document of the Holy See (June 28, 2019), “Pastoral guidelines of the Holy See concerning the civil registration of clergy in China,” it is quite clear that it encourages the faithful in China to enter a schismatic church (independent of the pope and under the orders of the Communist Party)."

This is a devastating insight, and the good Cardinal, and faithful Catholics and Christians in China, now needs our support, both moral and prayerful.

This petition, therefore, both supports Cardinal Zen and his quest to stop the "murder of the Church in China," as well as Chinese Catholics and Christians as they face an intensifying crackdown.

Please SIGN this urgent petition, today! It will be CC'ed to Vatican authorities.


Your Eminence,

Pardon the inconvenience my letter will cause you. It is just that, in conscience, I believe that the problem I present here concerns not only the Church in China, but the whole Church, and we cardinals have the grave responsibility to help the Holy Father in guiding the Church.

From my analysis of the document of the Holy See (June 28, 2019), “Pastoral guidelines of the Holy See concerning the civil registration of clergy in China,” it is quite clear that it encourages the faithful in China to enter a schismatic church (independent of the pope and under the orders of the Communist Party).

On July 10, I presented my “dubia” to the Pope. His Holiness, on July 3, had promised to take an interest in them, but to this day I have still not heard anything.

Cardinal Parolin says that today when we talk about the independent Church, this independence should no longer be understood as absolute, because the agreement recognizes the role of the pope in the Catholic Church.

First of all, I cannot believe that there is such a statement in the agreement, and I do not see it there. (By the way, why must such an agreement be secret, and why is it not granted even to me, a Chinese cardinal, to see it?) But, even more clearly, the whole reality after the signing of the agreement shows that nothing has changed. Cardinal Parolin quotes a sentence from Pope Benedict’s letter completely out of context — indeed, diametrically opposed to the whole paragraph. This manipulation of the pope emeritus’s thought is gravely disrespectful; indeed, it is a deplorable insult to the person of such a meek pope, who is still alive.

But it also disgusts me that they often declare that what they are doing is in continuity with the thought of the previous pope, while the opposite is true. I have reason to believe (and I hope one day to be able to prove with archival documents) that the agreement signed is the same one that Pope Benedict had, at the time, refused to sign.

Your Eminence, can we passively witness the murder of the Church in China by those who should protect and defend her from her enemies?

Begging on my knees, your brother,

Card. Joseph ZEN, SDB


List of Cardinal Zen's Questions (Dubia) to Pope Francis (Scroll down):

'Cdl Zen urges cardinals to stop the ‘murder of the Church in China’ -

'Chinese bishop sleeping on street after refusing to join communist schismatic group' -

Vatican’s June release of new guidelines concerning the civil registration of clergy in China -

'Chinese govt demands Christians use religion to ‘spread Communist Party principles’ -

'Vatican doesn’t understand that communist China will never compromise' -

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David Mulroney, Canada’s Ambassador to China between 2009 and mid-2012, told LifeSiteNews that China’s xenophobic attitude towards religion is particularly noxious to Catholicism.

“China seeks to undermine the universality of religious belief and religious communities, something that strikes at the very heart of Catholicism,” Mulroney said via social media.

“The Communist Party is wary of religious beliefs that transcend national borders, particularly its own,” he continued. “That means … Catholicism, Islam and Tibetan Buddhism are deeply suspect.”

Mulroney also pointed out that China’s attitude towards global religious movements is “ironic” given its participation in international communism.

“The Party’s powerful United Front Work Department uses clandestine means to spread its Marxist gospel around the world,” the former ambassador stated.

One solution to China’s objection of the “foreign” leadership of the Pope might be the election of a Chinese cardinal to the papacy. Given the impact of a Polish pope in the 20th century struggle for freedom in Central and Eastern Europe, the election of a Chinese pope might be ideal. But Edward Pentin, author of The Next Pope, thinks this is unlikely to happen any time soon.

“A Chinese pope is possible but it would require the Pope appointing a bishop from China of considerable stature,” Pentin told LifeSiteNews via social media.

“At the moment there are just two Chinese cardinals, John Hong Ton and [Joseph] Zen Ze-kiun, both emeriti of Hong Kong, but as they’re over 80, both are unlikely to be elected.”

Thus, for there to be a Chinese pope, Pope Francis would have to elevate a younger Chinese bishop to the College of Cardinals.

“[I]f he did, he’d undoubtedly choose someone on board with the Provisional Agreement and friendly to the CCP,” Pentin stated. “I don’t see such a cardinal being elected pope in a conclave, at least not at the moment.”

The draft legislation was presented shortly after the renewal of the two-year-old accord between the atheist and communist Chinese government and the Holy See in October. The terms of the accord, which allegedly allows the CCP to choose episcopal candidates, are largely unknown; the document has never been made public. However, the circumstances of religious minorities in China, including Catholics, have only worsened since the accord was signed.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong and an outspoken supporter of democracy in Hong Kong, has vigorously opposed the agreement.


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